Belfast Telegraph

Swish family Robinson

We reveal site of new home for couple who claimed huge £270k in apartment allowance

By Ciaran McGuigan

This is the site of the new dream home for Northern Ireland’s First Minister and his MP wife. With the dust still settling around the revelation that Iris and Peter Robinson have received more than £270,000 in allowances for their apartment in London, the diggers have moved in at the site where the couple are hoping to build a luxury house.

The large hilltop site has panoramic views across to Stangford Lough and Scrabo Tower in Iris’s constituency on one side and over Peter’s East Belfast constituency on the other.

Work on the grounds of the substantial site at Larch Hill, Dundonald has started to pick up following the latest planning green light granted in March.

When Sunday Life called at the site yesterday, a digger driver was continuing to level off the area that is expected to be a substantial driveway and gardens leading to the proposed replacement dwelling that the Robinson family are believed to be keen to own.

Tree seedlings have already been planted along two earth banks that will give the eventual grounds privacy from passing motorists.

The most recent planning alteration was passed by Castlereagh Borough Council last January and was granted in March for a replacement dwelling and groundworks in the rolling green fields above Dundonald.

Neighbours say it’s a poorly-guarded secret that Northern Ireland’s First Minister and his wife have plans to move a couple of hundred yards along the Gransha Road from their current home.

They believe it’s ideal for Mrs Robinson’s passion for horticulture and her husband’s hobby of breeding Japanese Koi.

Sunday Life understands that the couple have NOT yet clinched a deal for the land, with tumbling land values affecting property sales across Ulster and stalling many major deals.

But sources close to Mr Robinson have previously told Sunday Life about his desire to have the couple’s dream home on the site.

And that position has not changed apparently.

One journalist who was given a tour of the current Chez Robinson described the couple’s expensive tastes.

Each room in their plush villa had an individual theme, from an Oriental dining room, one bedroom French, another Scottish, and an Italian bathroom with Tuscan landscapes painted on the walls.

And residents in the area believe that the new home will be even more spectacular.

One neighbour said: “The work that’s gone on already has blocked the view from the road towards Scrabo. Goodness only knows what it will be like when the trees that have been planted come to maturity.

“And I’m sure the house will be huge.

“If they have been granted planning permission to build there then that’s fine, people are entitled to build. But the problem we have with it is that the work is taking so long.

“It seems to start and then stop and then start up again and it’s been going on for a long time without much progress being made.”

Another resident added: “The talk is of the Robinsons moving the short distance up the road, and you can see that it’s not going to be a modest house by the stretch of anyone’s imagination.

“There must have been some changes to plans and it’s not clear exactly what will be going in there, but there has even been mention of a small lake.

“Maybe Mr Robinson will be be using that to keep his Japanese Koi in.”

The site work is progressing as the Robinsons’ property holdings came under the media spotlight and the full extent of their parliamentary expenses were laid bare.

They came under fire last week for claiming food allowances of around £30,000 over four years.

And it has been previously revealed that they received a combined sum of around £270,000 in allowances for living away from home in the past seven years.

In that time — from September 2001 — they bought a London dockside apartment for £450,000 and have been using large chunks of their allowance to pay mortgage interest on the Northern Bank loan they have against the 14th floor apartment near Canary Wharf.

They could be expected to command upwards of £700,000 from the sale of the docklands apartment, if they put it on the market.

That’s the figure London estate agents have placed on the pad — even after carving off around £200k from its value due to the in the property slump.

But if Liberal Democrat proposals got the green light, the De

mocratic Unionist leader and his wife could be obliged to hand back up to around £250,000 to the taxpayer if they did sell at that price.

The proposal to claw back any profits from the sale of MPs second homes was the brainchild of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg (pictured left), as the leaders of Britain’s three main parties look for ways of easing the public backlash in the face of devastating revelations about the Westminster gravy train.

As well as their plush London apartment, the Robinson family to continue to live in the same family home in Dundonald, they have owned for 23 years, although according to records at the Registry of Deeds, they took out a mortgage against the property in 1999.

They also sold a large section of their garden in 2006 which had been earmarked for development along with gardens to the rear of a number of adjoining properties.

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